Since none of the four remaining unbeaten teams -- New England, Indianapolis, Dallas and Green Bay -- play each other, this has a chance to be only the second time in NFL history that four teams start the season 5-0. The last and only time it happened was in 2003, when Carolina, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minnesota pulled it off.
And here's the interesting note about that 2003 quartet: Despite the 5-0 start, the Vikings did not make the playoffs (New England, meanwhile, started off 2-2 that year and ended up winning the Super Bowl).
So far in 2007, NFL teams have combined for 2,622 points -- the second-highest total through four weeks of the season since 1970. Only in 2002, when 2,719 points were scored, have we seen the scoreboards busier.
Here are some interesting matchups to watch in Week 5:
|Matt Slocum / Associated Press|
|If the Cowboys' aerial attack is to stay hot, then Flozell Adams must stand tall against Bills' Pro Bowl pass rusher Aaron Schobel.|
Cowboys LT Flozell Adams vs. Bills DE Aaron Schobel
In Buffalo's win over the Jets last week, the defensive game plan was to stop the run and force Chad Pennington to beat them. I think you'll see the opposite here -- and it's no secret they need to stop Tony Romo, who is averaging 288 passing yards per game with 11 touchdown passes in four games. Buffalo needs Schobel to get pressure on Romo in order to do this. In 2006, Schobel had 14 sacks and started in the Pro Bowl. He's a speed rusher who is highly competitive. Adams is a Pro Bowl starter as well, but it should be noted that he does not play as well on the road as he does at home (of course, this is the case with most offensive linemen, as crowd noise on the road makes it harder to hear the snap count).
Interesting note on this game: Buffalo will be playing its first Monday night home game in 13 years. The opponent then was Denver, whose coach at the time was current Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips.
Packers QB Brett Favre vs. Bears defense
For the Packers to win, Favre needs a big night. Green Bay is last in the league in rushing, averaging 54.3 yards per game. Chicago, despite multiple injuries on defense, still allows just 93.3 rushing yards per game. Favre's recent history against the Bears has not been great. In his last three games against Chicago in Green Bay, he is 0-3 with one touchdown pass and eight interceptions. Of course, in four games this season, Favre has eight touchdowns, two interceptions and 1,205 yards passing.
The matchup within the matchup is Packers left tackle Chad Clifton against Bears defensive end Mark Anderson, who has four sacks in four games. Anderson needs to win this battle, because I think Chicago will have a tough time here due to their defensive injuries.
Lions vs. history
We usually say that it's all about the matchups, but sometimes history trumps the matchups. Dating all the way back to a 31-7 loss in 1939, the Lions have never beaten the Redskins in Washington. They are 0-20 at Washington, and they've lost 20 of the last 22 overall matchups with the Redskins.
Aside from battling history, the Lions must contain Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who ran for 147 yards in the last meeting between these teams. Portis had five runs of 10-plus yards in that game, and he completed a touchdown pass to boot. Detroit also has to contain wide receiver Santana Moss -- he'll get his receptions, but they can't give up long passes.
Offensively, Detroit must throw the ball well. That's what Eli Manning did when the Giants beat Washington two weeks ago. Lions receivers can give the Redskins corners fits. Detroit has won three of four games this season despite giving up seven more points than they've scored.
Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Browns QB Derek Anderson
If we told you before the season that this game would feature a matchup of two of the league's top passers, you'd certainly say we were half crazy. But because Anderson has played surprisingly well for Cleveland -- and because the Patriots have a huge game next week against undefeated Dallas -- this could be a trap game for New England.
Of course, if anyone knows how to stop Brady, it's Browns head coach Romeo Crennel. I think Crennel will have some special schemes in place for Brady. Remember, the Jets under head coach Eric Mangini -- who was a defensive assistant in New England when Crennel was defensive coordinator -- sacked Brady four times and intercepted him once in his first meeting against his old team. That said, Brady leads the top scoring attack this season and the Browns have allowed an NFL-high 12 touchdown passes.
On the other side of the ball, I look for New England's defense to focus on stopping Anderson and worrying less about running back Jamal Lewis. That means Anderson, who can be quite inconsistent at times, has to be careful not to force things. He can't afford to make any costly mistakes.
Colts QB Peyton Manning vs. Buccaneers defense
Both of these teams have the same defensive philosophy -- a result of Tony Dungy bringing his Cover 2 defense from Tampa Bay to Indianapolis when he became the Colts' head coach. Will seeing that defense in practive every day help Manning? He'll need the edge -- because not only are the Buccaneers allowing an average of just 11 points per game (tops in the league), but Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison is questionable to play.
If cornerback Brian Kelly is able to play for Tampa Bay, then the Bucs can counter the passing attack of the Colts with three very good corners. Kelly joins Pro Bowler Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon -- a one-time first-round bust in Oakland who has been playing very well. The Bucs defense also boasts a very good young middle linebacker in third-year player Barrett Ruud. And they seem to have found a gem in defensive end Greg White. The former arena league player was recommended by Jon Gruden's brother, who coaches in the arena league. White surprisingly made the roster, and he's been playing terrific.
The key to Tampa's defensive success is that they have been getting pressure on the quarterback without blitzing too much -- they've got eight sacks and have forced six holding penalties. Manning should prevail here, but it will be closer than people think. The key will be getting the ball to tight end Dallas clark, who could pose some matchup problems.
Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Broncos run defense
Or maybe this is Tomlinson vs. the Denver altitude, because LT has not had great success in Denver. In his last five games there, he has 83 carries for 294 yards. Take out one of those games in which he ran for 105 yards, and he's averaged 47 yards per game in the others. In other words, Tomlinson probably has to have the best game he's ever had in Denver in order for San Diego to win. I'd say he needs 120 yards in this game. Of course, that's not out of the question at all, considering that Denver has allowed an average of 181 rushing yards per game this season.
Chiefs RB Larry Johnson vs. Jaguars run defense
Which Jaguars run defense will we see -- the one that let Tennessee run wild for 282 yards in Week 1, or the one that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in two games since. Jacksonville held Denver to 47 rushing yards two weeks ago, and that was without injured defensive tackle John Henderson. That said, Jacksonville's run defense was very good last year when Johnson rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns against them. Johnson's slow start has been well documented, but he should be helped out the rest of the season by the solid play of rookie wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The Jaguars need to hold Johnson under 100 yards to win.
Panthers RB DeShaun Foster vs. Saints defense
Foster has played well this season, and it's more important than ever to produce now that quarterback Jake Delhomme is out. When the Panthers beat New Orleans in the regular-season finale last year, Delhomme completed 23 of 27 passes for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns. It's hard to imagine David Carr playing that well, so the onus is on Foster. It's a big game for New Orleans, which gives up a lot of passing yards and is in the middle of the pack (18th) against the run.